A representative of East Timor has welcomed Australia’s decision to grant permanent residency to 379 East Timorese asylum seekers.

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Over 1,600 East Timorese fled to Australia during the years of the sometimes brutal Indonesian occupation of East Timor.

The immigration minister, Philip Ruddock, announced yesterday he would intervene for 379, but the vast majority have had their refugee applications rejected.

East Timor’s Consul General for New South Wales Abel Guterres says the announcement shows Mr Ruddock has been “sympathetic”.

“It’s very much good news, absolutely good news for the asylum seekers.

“We knew all along that the minister, Mr Ruddock, and the Prime Minister himself have been very sympathetic to the East Timorese situation.

“And that is the result.”

East Timor has previously said it does not want the asylum seekers to be forced to return to East Timor because there are not enough jobs for them.

Greg Barber, the Mayor of Yarra in Melbourne’s inner east, an area which is home to a large East Timorese community, says the Government should let all the asylum seekers stay.

“In the City of Yarra, with so many of these East Timorese living in our area — about 600, I believe — it’s causing a lot of stress and a lot of angst in the local community.

“People are reliving the memories of why they escaped from East Timor to Australia in the first place.

“And they have a lot of fear about what they are going back to and whether there’s even a life for them there.”

The Democrats leader, Senator Andrew Bartlett, and the Victorian premier, Steve Bracks, are also urging Mr Ruddock to act for those East Timorese not given asylum.

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